Over the past few days whilst being snow bound, a couple of articles published online, by established media outlets regarding mental health have alarmed me.
Philip Hensher, a professor of creative writing offered us his ‘expert opinion’ in the Independent on Friday by opining how “depression is incapacitating only for months, or even weeks”. Then on Saturday the BBC ran with the Headline “Self-help books ‘treat depression’” based on a study of 200 patients diagnosed with depression by their GPs which informed us “Depression saps people’s motivation”.
The reason for my concern is both articles make sweeping statements and totally disregard the true debilitating effects of depression. Further, the publication of such articles at this time when the Government are due to make changes to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) on January 28th, which will mean claimants are assessed separately for physical and mental health is doubly worrying.
If these ‘amendments’ go through, when we’re reassessed for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) in the future the impact of our physical health on our mental health, or vice versa, will be totally ignored.
I can’t imagine how that’s going to work, anyone with a chronic physical/mental health condition knows that one affects the other; my Fibro flare up’s certainly impact on my depression, and during a bout of depression my pain & fatigue levels of increase. But the folk at the DWP believe they can determine what my numerous specialists can’t, which of my many symptoms are caused by which of my ailments!
This is clearly wrong, but it gets worse still. We all know what problems ATOS assessors and DWP decision makers currently cause; just imagine what trouble they’re going to make of their new found abilities. If these ‘amendments’ go through the’ll be given the powers to determine whether our problems are caused by our physical or mental health and whether or not we would be as ‘unfit’ if we used an ‘aid’ to assist us. That’s it, the clever assessors will be given free reign to imagine if we would be ‘fitter’ using a wheelchair for example! A briefing paper on the full changes can be found at http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/files/esabriefing-full.pdf.
There is a specific issue here in the fact that particularly regarding mental health, there is already a strong scepticism; and as a lifelong sufferer of depression, my experience tells me mental health is often not understood, even within the medical professions. Further I know that once a diagnosis is reached, it’s too easy for health practitioners to use it as a handle to hang any health issue on, something Rae Earl shares “Mental Health patients get physical illnesses too, you know. Current research even suggests that my extreme OCD is partially caused by genetically reduced serotonin levels.”
If we as those living with ill health don’t know where one problems starts and another one ends just how can ATOS assessors or DWP decision makers?
Courtesy of Jayne Linney